Bad Weather Won’t Stop Linn County Casino Election

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller talks to voters as they stand in line to cast their ballot in the Cedar Rapids casino vote at the Auditor's Office on Monday, March 4, 2013, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/Gazette-KCRG)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Today’s snowstorm hasn’t slowed voter turnout for today’s Linn County gambling vote.

Nearly 6 percent of eligible Linn County voters had cast ballots in the county-wide referendum as of 11 a.m. today, according to a report from county auditor Joel Miller.

8,478 votes were cast between 7 and 11 a.m. today, according to Miller’s report, representing 5.73 percent of the county’s 152,754 registered voters.

Turnout has been strongest at the county’s township polling sites, with 6.69 percent of eligible voters casting ballots as of 11 a.m. Other totals include Cedar Rapids metro precincts, with 4,870 total ballots cast (5.39 percent); Marion precincts, with 1,455 ballots cast (5.66 percent); and metro area precincts including Fairfax, Hiawatha and Robins, with 581 ballots cast (6.37 percent).

12.3 percent of the county’s registered voters cast early ballots via absentee voting, according to Miller’s report — a total of 18,788 ballots.

Turnout in most precincts is running well ahead of the last Linn County special election, the local-option sales tax referendum on March 6, 2012, where just over 5 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots as of 11 a.m.

Polls in Linn County are open until 8 p.m.

Any kind of weather concern tends to affect voter turnout. But with expected temperatures in the 30s Tuesday, the salt that road crews put down should work quickly to melt the snow.

But that’s not enough to ease the fears of people passionate about this casino vote.

Some 20,504 Linn County voters have requested absentee ballots. And Monday, employees in the auditor’s office worked to get those votes stamped, opened and counted.

But dozens more lined up to cast a ballot in person Monday.

“I’m afraid tomorrow I won’t get out,” said early voter Donald Carter.

There was a consistent line at the auditor’s office Monday from morning into the afternoon. But once voters got to the front of the line, there was just one question to answer on the ballot, do they want a casino in Linn County or not.

“The ballot is simple. I mean, I don’t see how you could mess that up, even me,” said Carter.

But just getting to the polls could prove a challenging task for some Tuesday. And that’s why both the “Vote Yes” and “Just Say No” groups have been encouraging people to vote early.

“We were headed to probably record turnout before the weather. I don’t know what we’ll have tomorrow,” Miller said Monday. “It depends on what we get tonight and whether the streets get cleaned and whether people can get to the polls”

One voter said he offered to pick up friends who don’t have transportation to get them to the polls, but only if their vote will help his cause.

Some voters said they walked to the county auditor’s office to vote. Which is why the Miller is asking everyone to get out early and shovel the sidewalks, especially if they live near a precinct.

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